About the solution
Deaf concertgoers often face limited access to the sonic experience. A remarkable solution has emerged, transforming the way music is perceived by all. This creation, called "Music: Not Impossible," was born from the desire to provide a unique and nuanced music experience, inspired by the deaf community.
Daniel Belquer, a musician and theater artist, took on the role of "Chief Vibrational Officer" at Music: Not Impossible, an initiative of Not Impossible Labs. Not Impossible Labs leverages new technologies to address social issues like poverty and disability access. Their venture aimed to enhance the concert-going experience by translating live music into physical vibrations on the skin in real-time.
To ensure the authenticity and effectiveness of their creation, the team collaborated closely with Mandy Harvey, a deaf singer/songwriter. Mandy's valuable feedback throughout the development process ensured that Music: Not Impossible stayed true to its inspiration, enhancing the experiences of deaf and hard-of-hearing concert attendees.
The journey to achieving their goal was filled with challenges. Initial attempts involved attaching vibrating cell phone motors to the body, but these proved inadequate, lacking variety and nuance in capturing the richness of the music. Undeterred, the team sought the expertise of engineers at Avnet, an electronic components company. Together, they designed a lightweight haptic suit with 24 actuators, or vibrating plates. The vest, resembling a snug hiking backpack, featured 20 actuators, while the remaining four were placed on the wrists and ankles.
Wearing the haptic suit, the sensations on the skin were extraordinary, bringing textures to life: raindrops on the shoulders, tickles across the ribs, and thumps against the lower back. These vibrations went beyond replicating the music; they were carefully crafted to play waves of sensation in harmony with the musical composition, complementing the auditory experience in a profound way.
To celebrate this innovation, an inclusive event took place during Lincoln Center's annual Summer for the City festival, specifically honoring Disability Pride Month. The organizers spared no effort in creating an environment that catered to various disabilities. American Sign Language interpreters were present, and the music was captioned on a stage screen. Audio descriptions served the visually impaired, while a dedicated chill-out space offered noise-reducing headphones, earplugs, and fidgets to combat overstimulation. The event embraced the concept of a silent disco, with music exclusively experienced through headphones, allowing attendees to adjust the volume to their preference.
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